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August 29, 2006

One year after Katrina...

...and what have we learned?

Well, for starters, that the BushCo Imperial Preznitcy is rather reminiscent of the royal family of France--heedless of everything, right up to its date with La Guillotine:

They Were Eating Cake

We also learned that the Marie Antoinette of the clan has rather limited perspective when it comes to what's fun and what's not:

Babs lets 'em eat cake

We learned that Auntie Condi cherishes shoes more than she does human life. This is entirely in keeping with her working for BushCo; they prize appearances more than they do a job properly done.

We also learned that there is a certain racist element to all the death and destruction--as well as the denial thereof. But the media coverage and a lot of conservative blogging was so transparently racist that a lot of us were sickened by it, blacks and whites alike.

Most of all, though, we learned who's a real president, and who's not:

Hugo Chavez on Katrina

I'll bet there are plenty of New Orleaners and other storm-wracked victims who would gladly trade in Chimpy for Chavecito. Especially when you consider how the latter dealt with a flood tragedy early in his own presidency. Shit, even Chavecito's evil commie pal Fidel deals with hurricanes better than the Chimperor.

Yes, we've learned a lot in the year since Katrina. Too bad BushCo hasn't learned a fucking thing.

(PS: Happy Birthday to my dad. Last year we spent this day glued to the TV set in horrified fascination, and I said "Well, how do you like this for a birthday present?"--or something to that effect. All my dad could do was barely manage an embarrassed smile. His day was spoiled, and the news reports that followed when the big blow was over made it even worse. This year, I'll be grilling some good steaks. And quietly praying we--meaning EVERYONE--won't see another such 'cane ever again.)

August 25, 2006

In case you're wondering why no posts lately...

...I've had a little family emergency.

Well, all right: NOT so little.

My mom had a nasty fall a few days ago while cleaning the kitchen window. The Muskoka chair she was standing on to reach the top of it (it's huge) wasn't designed for someone to use its armrest as a footbrace, apparently, because it gave way when she leaned her foot against it. She came down on her right arm, and now she has a comminuted fracture of her right wrist.

Of course, this is right in line with Murphy's Law. My mom, like most people, is right-handed. If she'd been a southpaw, I guarandamntee you she'd have fallen on her left arm and broken THAT wrist instead. The emergency doc even told her that people tend to fall on the same side as their dominant hand.

So now I'm her right-hand woman, literally. There are many things she can't do for herself until that wrist heals--everything from signing her name on cheques, to putting on her socks. I'm cooking and cleaning and helping her keep the house in order full-time right now, so pray that I don't have any similar mishaps--one thing I refuse to do right now is windows!

(PS to my friends from MMTF: When I'm not too busy looking after my mom, I'm here. Since the Malloy forum mods have decided to play jackass, I've decided to hang with a cooler crowd. See you there!)

August 19, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: LL Cool H

Okay, FLFB is a little belated this week, but better late than never!

Hugo Chavez dancing with Colombian minister

Ah, that smooth Chavecito. Wherever he goes, he dances away with the ladies' hearts. Here he is, charming the socks off visiting Colombian foreign minister Maria Consuelo Araujo.

Hugo Chavez with Jamaican PM Portia Simpson Miller

And is the Jamaican prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller, only smiling because of the recently signed (and VERY helpful) oil agreement? Or is it the Chavecito charm? (Maybe a bit of both?)

Hugo Chavez with activist Lina Ron

One thing's indisputable: Long-time Venezuelan radical activist Lina Ron has nothing but good wishes for Chavecito as he announces his candidacy for the upcoming December election.

And she's not the only one.

August 18, 2006

The end of the End of History

Neoconservatism's ideological guru has some Kool-Aid he'd like to sell you. But be warned...there's a lot of backwash in that there jug:

Early on in Hugo Chavez's political career, the Venezuelan president attacked my notion that liberal democracy together with a market economy represents the ultimate evolutionary direction for modern societies -- the "end of history." When asked what lay beyond the end of history, he offered a one-word reply: "Chavismo."

The idea that contemporary Venezuela represents a social model superior to liberal democracy is absurd. In his eight years as president, Chavez has capitalized on his country's oil wealth to take control of congress, the courts, trade unions, electoral commissions and the state oil company. Proposed legislation that would limit foreign funding could soon constrain nongovernmental organizations as well.

And people who signed a recall petition against Chavez in the run-up to a 2004 referendum on his rule later found their names posted on the Web site of a pro-Chavez legislator; if they worked for the government or wanted to do business with it, they were out of a job and out of luck.

Chavez's success in attracting attention -- cozying up to Fidel Castro's Cuba, signing an arms deal with Russia, visiting Iran and incessantly criticizing the United States -- has popularized the notion that Chavismo embodies a new future for Latin America. By preserving some freedoms, including a relatively free press and pseudo-democratic elections, Chavez has developed what some observers call a postmodern dictatorship, neither fully democratic nor fully totalitarian, a left-wing hybrid that enjoys a legitimacy never reached in Castro's Cuba or in the Soviet Union.

Latin America has indeed witnessed a turn to this postmodern left in some countries, including in Bolivia, where Evo Morales, Chavez's kindred spirit, won the presidency last year. Nonetheless, the dominant trends in the hemisphere are largely positive: Democracy is strengthening and the political and economic reforms now being undertaken augur well for the future.

Venezuela is not a model for the region; rather, its path is unique, the product of a natural resource curse that makes it more comparable to Iran or Russia than any of its Latin American neighbors. Chavismo is not Latin America's future -- if anything, it is its past.

And believe it or not, that's just the beginning. There's more, alas; I've only shoveled about a third of his regurgitations here. But this is a representative sample, so let's go.

First, the "end of history" is utter bunkum. Fukuyama secretly knows it, too, but he's chosen to retread it rather than retract it and start over with fresh thought. And no wonder: it's late in the game for him, he's an NED man, and his original gambit was a flat failure. He's out of ideas (not that he was that long on good ones to begin with.) Plus there's the little matter of his signature on that PNAC letter for all posterity. He can scrub like Lady Macbeth all he likes, but that damned spot won't ever come out. His big public mea culpa didn't win him the accolades and redemption he was hoping for (poor baby!), so now he's chosen to go after the very man who's proven his oldest thesis wrong in the most definitive manner. Oh, those Public Intellectuals and their sensitive egos!

What's particularly funny is that he's attacking Chavez for something said years ago. Has it been rankling him this long? Oh, get over yourself already, Francis! Grow a skin. Grow a spine. Grow a set, for gawdsakes.

And even more funny is that he's deliberately misrepresenting it in the usual right-wing, media-driven mode of "Chavez is antidemocratic!" Once again, we get the same old predigested pablum which contends that Chavez is a communist and has consolidated power by "undemocratic" means, oppressing his poor widdle freedom-loving opposition (the same that so loved democracy, it let its only begotton son, Pedro Carmona, abolish its institutions while Washington blessed the farce with covert support and mucho dinero, some of it from Fukuyama's own NED).

Fukuyama is covering his ass with more embarrassment here; you can tell he's read nothing but the usual tripe that's served in the US media--which is to say, English translations of the mainstream Venezuelan media. That media is ultra-corporate, even fascist in some parts, and has a seething hate-on for Chavez and all he does. It wilfully ignores those things which are inconvenient to it. It's also completely blind to the history which is still in the making, which is entirely to be expected. How else to push such an absurd thesis than to disappear the facts down the Memory Hole?

In fact, Chavez consolidated power by strictly constitutional, democratic means--the people picked him (and candidates on his list) repeatedly because he responded to them, giving them what they wanted and needed. Hell, they even picked the people who rewrote their constitution, then ratified the end result overwhelmingly--again, in a democratic vote. They voted for Chavez because he promised--and kept his word!--that Venezuela's vast oil proceeds would go toward the public good, rather than into the pockets of the oligarchy as before. Whose fault is it that the people like Chavez's concrete and practical radicalism better than they do Fukuyama's derivative old ivory-tower theories?

Little does Fukuyama suspect that his notions have already been tried on for size in Venezuela, and simply did not fit. The documentary Venezuela Bolivariana (which you can watch here) places the purported "end of history" in the context of some very inconvenient forgotten history--and shows how, far from being an end, the fall of the Iron Curtain was in fact a historic beginning for real socialism. As early as February 27, 1989, the same year that the Berlin Wall fell, the people of Venezuela violently rejected what is laughably termed neoliberalism, which then-president Carlos Andres Perez forced down their throats. It was a stunning example of how quickly "liberal democracy" can turn to far-right totalitarianism. When the price of gasoline shot through the roof and bus fares went up by 200%, poor Venezuelans wound up looting, Katrina-fashion, what their already inadequate wages could no longer buy. It was a combination of protest and survival. This went on for five straight days. More than a thousand died when the government set their own army against them to enforce a policy that nobody wanted. (The precise body count remains unknown, probably because it would make the Perez regime look even worse.)

The riots were brutally repressed, but the anger remained, as did a quiet resolve to carry on the fight.

On February 4, 1992, Chavez--then an army colonel spearheading a clandestine Bolivarian movement--responded to that still-seething popular discontent by launching a coup to bring down Perez. The coup failed, but nevertheless succeeded in awakening the consciousness of the people even as Chavez sat in jail.

Meanwhile, in 1993, Perez was impeached for misuse of public funds. The decision was handed down to raucous cheering from the poor whom he had betrayed, whose loved ones he had massacred.

A year later, Chavez was pardoned by Rafael Caldera and released from prison. Determined to bring real change and not just a change of face, he toured the country no fewer than four times. It was an unprecedented process: a candidate actually hearing out the people, and turning their concerns into the platform that won him the presidency in 1998 (and smashed the old, false-democratic Punto Fijo system for good).

But none of that appears in Fukuyama's article; one who believes in the "end of history" surely can't be bothered to read and digest so many facts. Too much history for him, I guess!

Now Chavismo, if I can risk defining it in a nutshell, is radical democracy harnessing money and markets to serve the people, rather than the people and democracy being harnessed to serve money and the markets, as in "liberal democracy". That is why it works. A people-first policy, wherein democracy is the servant rather than the yoke, enables everyone to improve their situations in ways that must make Fukuyama's ahistoric eyes bulge with envy. It is a direct refutation of neo-cons' pet theory--the theory that the marketplace will just automatically deliver everything if government and people get out of its way. Chavez has seen that it does not do any such thing; rather, the market is what is in the way of the government and the people. Left unchecked, the market delivers little and merely sucks up profits from a "client state" and then pulls up stakes, leaving a trail of unemployment, economic collapse, political instability, broken pipes, contaminated water and masses of unserved consumers in its wake. Only those who reject the "free market" gospel and apply their own solutions manage to prosper.

Actually, the proper word for Chavez's process is Bolivarianism. And it is a lot more complex and interesting than the straw-Chavismo that Fukuyama sets up to make feints at. It is also known as the "Tree of Three Roots", because it is a single ideology growing out of the lives and works of three historic Venezuelans: Simon Bolivar, Ezequiel Zamora, and Simon Rodriguez. And, just like a tree, this process is no closed, static system; it is organic and alive. If it is hardy and well adapted to its environment, it will grow and thrive. And as we can see in Venezuela Bolivariana, it is doing rather well in its native soil. (My only quibble with the movie is that it's already a little out of date; it doesn't show how the whole Venezuelan economy has picked up under Chavez. Things are moving fast down there! Thankfully, Oil Wars has many excellent posts and pictures to fill that void.)

But "liberal democracy" is certainly no end to history in itself, let alone a vehicle for Better Things, as Fukuyama is still wishing it were. Rather than being a means for human self-perfection, it's a soporific, a vehicle for self-deception. People thinking "we have democracy and free markets, therefore whatever goes wrong after this must be the fault of those who fall through the cracks, because this system is perfect", are deluding themselves. Forty years of "liberal democracy", which Venezuela had, actually deepened the problems that Chavez has set out to eradicate. People had the vote, yes--but they did not have real democracy, which may be defined from a practical standpoint as responsive leaders who work on the people's behalf. Rather, they had plutocracy in a democratic guise: government by, of and for the money. And when the people didn't do the money's bidding, the mask fell and shattered. Guess what was behind it.

There is nothing liberal OR democratic about "liberal democracy", when it comes down to that. It's just the latest and flashiest form of feudal serfdom, in which the serfs are deluded into thinking they have a say when in fact, it's still the oligarchy running the whole show. "Left" and "right" are rendered meaningless when the plutocrats have bought out both. Vote for one or the other; you'll end up with only minor variations on the same theme. The serfs are just dragged along on a Technicolor magic carpet ride, where not much is real--but gosh, it all looks so pretty. In such a society, mass-media celebrity culture is injected as an anesthetic; we're supposed to care about rich bitches and their messy love lives, instead of minding our social institutions, which are increasingly under attack from the moneyed interests. While the face in power changes every so often, the situation remains the same, if not worse. It is a kind of moral decay that has less to do with sex, drugs and rock'n'roll than it does with simply pushing those addictions to the masses, to distract us from the real societal problems we face. This dope-culture uses religion, even puritanical religion, to the same ends as it does all the other addictive and abusable substances--witness the explosion of cults in the United States, which were promptly exported abroad. The Moonies and Pat Robertson stand as particular cases in point. (So does the so-called New Tribes mission, which Chavez had the good sense to kick out of Venezuela.) God, like everything else in "liberal democracy", is a commodity, and whoever sells the most God-junk, wins.

Chavez isn't deceived by all this flummery, and he wants to make sure that no one else is, either. So, with the old political parties discredited and the old system slowly crumbling, he's pushing through reforms that work, before the old enemy gets a chance to regroup and regress. Already his social welfare missions have reaped success; illiteracy is a thing of the past now, as in Cuba (which donated the methods and materials by which that success was achieved.) The people can now all read their own Constitution, analyze it, and make it work for them.

And, as a final fuck-you to neoliberalism, Chavez's economic policies have met with such success as his predecessors and opponents can only dream about. Privatization has been halted and reversed; idle lands are being seized and redistributed to farmers; the dependence on imported goods is shrinking; oil money is now being put to good use everywhere, from infrastructure to microcredits to eye surgery. Amazing as it seems, governmental "interference"--tightening the reins on big business, taxing the rich, and investing the profits of nationalized resources in the poorest sectors of society--is proving not to be a fiscal sinkhole, as the IMF would have us believe, but the real rising tide that lifts all boats. It makes sense; you can't expect a small fishing-boat to float when you suck the water out from underneath it and divert it all to the big yachts and supertankers. (And no, "trickle-down" economics won't supply enough water either!)

Chavez was right--though painfully blunt about it, as is his manner. Fukuyama has lost out in the Marketplace of Ideas, and it is all because his glorious idea is destined never to make it beyond being a poncy paperweight in the drawing rooms of the elite.

Isn't it time we called an end to the End of History?

August 16, 2006

So...who are the Hardcore Stupid?

Cheryl Seal of Democrats.com has identified 22 species of these scary humanoids...

So who are these holdout Bush supporters?

After pondering four years worth of my own interactions, pro-Bush postings at various webstes, and the comments of callers to rightwing talk shows and C-SPAN, I have identified and compiled the following list of Bush supporter types.

1. Scared, under-informed, and disempowered women who have been brainwashed into believing that there are Al Qaeda bogeymen behind every door and only G. W. Bush can save them.

2. Scared, under-informed, and disempowered men who have been brainwashed into believing that there are Al Qaeda bogeymen behind every door and only G. W. Bush can save them.

3. People making over $100,000 per year whose primary focus in life is "getting theirs" (as in "who cares if anyone else does?")

4. Homophobics

5. Black people who hate themselves and wish they were white

6. Just about any minority people who hate themselves or at least hate one other minority group.

7. White people who hate all minorities.

8. People brainwashed into believing that the world revolves around just two issues: guns and abortion

9. Executives whose companies spew toxic wastes into the air, soil and water.

10. Developers who would turn anything - from farmland to nature sanctuaries - into parkinglots and strip malls if they could.

11. Co-dependent women who want a pat on the head from their patriarchal husbands or boyfriends for voting for HIS favorite candidate.

12. Angry white males who believe that only white males have a right to health, wealth, and the pursuit of happiness and thus don't want to share the resources

13. People who cannot find the capitol of the next state on a map, let alone Afghanistan or Iraq

14. People who believe that they will be one of the 144,000 "chosen" who will be sucked up into heaven following an accelerated Armageddon provoked by Bush

15. People who eat Freedom Fries

16. People who claim to be pro-life while cheering on the slaughter of innocent men, women and children in poor countries.

17. People who claim to be pro-life while promoting the extinction of dozens of species by endorsing the removal of environmental protections

18. People who claim to be pro-life but promote the often prolonged and painful deaths of thousands of fellow human beings by opposing affordable health care policies or the use of federal funds for clinics in poor nations because they may offer abortion..

19. People who think female breasts are nasty objects and should be hidden permanently from view, if not banned altogether.

20. People too unread, unimaginative, and unintelligent to grasp concepts that cannot be presented as "tiny sound bytes" and simple-minded slogans

21. People who believe "liberal" is a dirty word because that's what Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the simple-minded slogansmiths have hammered into their heads.

22. People who believe that what really counts in a leader with the power to determine the course of events for hundreds of millions of people on Earth is whether you can picture having a beer with him.

There you have it, folks. Know your enemies.

August 14, 2006

Jimmy Hoffa, call your office...

...because Carlos Ortega is now a fugitive. AGAIN.

A senior Venezuelan opposition leader has escaped from a military prison, the country's attorney general has said.

Carlos Ortega was sentenced to almost 16 years in jail last year after being convicted of inciting unrest during a strike that began in late 2002.

He escaped along with three military officers and may have been aided by some authorities, Venezuela's attorney general said.

Ortega is known as a fierce opponent of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.

In his role as a key union leader, Ortega, 59, played a central role in the 63-day strike that aimed to oust Mr Chavez from the presidency.

He was arrested last March after returning to Venezuela from Costa Rica, where he sought asylum after the strike ended.

Attorney General Isias Rodriguez told Venezuelan TV that Ortega had escaped from prison.

"Effectively at this moment the people who appear to have escaped are not in the Ramo Verde prison," he said.

He had been jailed at the military prison, some 40km (25 miles) outside Caracas, for his own security, officials said.

Ortega's lawyer, Carlos Roa, expressed "surprise" at the news and said he had doubts about the truth of the story, the EFE news agency reported.

Here's a blast from the coup-monger's past.

Ortega is about as much of a union leader as any mafia boss can be expected to be: corrupt, more likely to get in bed with the corporate employers (as indeed he did) than to represent the interests of workers. He's a sell-out, having traded away workers' rights for concessions that were never fulfilled.

However, Ortega is something even worse: he's an active perpetrator in the treason of 2002 and much of the plotting for the repeat attempts to unseat Chavez that followed. In the documentary Venezuela Bolivariana, there's a clip of him actually saying that he doesn't give a fuck for the law or any of the democratic instutions of the land. If he had been a US citizen talking about his own government, that would have landed his ass in Gitmo. It was a jaw-dropping statement to be making in public with half a dozen media outlets shoving their microphones in his pudgy face, but it wasn't enough to get him jailed...yet.

After the coup and the subsequent oil "strike" (really, a lockout and sabotage) failed to oust Chavez but succeeded in finally provoking the authorities to make arrests, Ortega went on the lam. He sought refuge in Costa Rica, where he soon embarrassed the local authorities into asking him to leave. Soon after that, he washed up where all the scum of Latin America has a funny way of landing: dear old cockroach-ridden Miami. But he was no more welcome there than in Costa Rica, being something of an embarrassment to his US backers, so he returned to Venezuela under a fake identity. Eventually, the law caught up to him...in, of all appropriate places, an illegal gambling den in Caracas. His greying hair was dyed black, and he had a fat black fake mustache that made him a dead ringer for Saddam Hussein. But there was no mistaking his droopy eyelids, or his arrogance.

Ortega got 16 years for his part in the treason; a light sentence, all things considered. He continued to lead the CTV union from his prison cell, unofficially and illegally; his rule had in fact been illegal all along, since he was not democratically elected and was never recognized as such by the CNE, the national elections council. Eventually, the Venezuelan trade union movement went on to found a new organization, the UNT, to be free from CTV's corruption. It was a massive indictment of just what a poor job of union representation Ortega was doing.

But such things matter little to a fugitive coup plotter who doesn't give a fuck for the government, the law, or any other democratic institution of his country.

PS: Oil Wars has a post on this as well, with a terrific anti-Ortega poster.

August 12, 2006

Cindy comes to Crawford...

...this time to stay:

Howdy Neighbor!

And she still has a question that SOMEONE doesn't want to give an honest, straightforward answer to:

Cindy of Crawford

Do you suppose she'll get one this year? Next year? Year after that, maybe?

In any event, she can now afford to bide her time.

August 11, 2006

A sad but unsurprising revelation

A great German author, outspokenly anti-Nazi, has something he's long wanted to get off his chest. Let's hear him out:

Nobel Prize-winning German writer Guenther Grass, author of the great anti-Nazi novel The Tin Drum, has admitted serving in the Waffen-SS.

He told a German newspaper he had been recruited at the age of 17 into an SS tank division and served in Dresden.

Previously it was only known he had served as a soldier and was wounded and taken prisoner by US forces.

Speaking before the publication of his war memoirs, he said his silence over the years had "weighed" upon him.

"My silence over all these years is one of the reasons I wrote this book [Peeling Onions]," he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview.

"It had to come out, finally."

Grass, who was born in 1927, is widely admired as a novelist whose books frequently revisit the war years and is also known as an outspoken peace activist.

Few details of the author's service were given other than that he had served in the Waffen SS Frundsberg Panzer Division after failing to get a posting in the submarine service.

The SS, which began as a private bodyguard for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, grew into a force nearly 1m strong and both acted as an elite fighting force and ran death camps in which millions of people were murdered.

The Waffen-SS was the combat section of the organization and extended to 38 divisions. It was declared part of a criminal organisation at the Nuremberg Nazi trials after the war.

"At the time" he had not felt ashamed to be a member, he said but he added: "Later this feeling of shame burdened me."

"For me... the Waffen-SS was nothing frightful but rather an elite unit that they sent where things were hot and which, as people said about it, had the heaviest losses," he said.

"It happened as it did to many of my age. We were in the labour service and all at once, a year later, the call-up notice lay on the table. And only when I got to Dresden did I learn it was the Waffen-SS."

Grass' memoir of his wartime youth is due to be released in September.

I will be looking for it, because in a way I can strongly relate. My maternal grandfather, Jakob Welker, was another SS conscript. He was born in the Vojvodina province of northern Yugoslavia, in an ethnic German enclave in a town whose name the Germans spelled Tscherwenka. (It is now known as Crvenka.) He got the call-up because he was tall and imposing-looking, a "foreign German" who spoke three languages (German, Hungarian and some Serbo-Croatian).

Just as with Grass, he had no choice in the matter. The call-up was made out to him as an "Auszeichnung", a special honor for the outland German, but it was not. It was either go, or watch his wife and three small daughters shot before it was his turn.

As it is, the youngest, Gerda, a baby of 11 months, developed malnutrition and died from dysentery; my grandmother's milk ran dry as a result of the poor food and extreme stress of fleeing the Russian invasion of Yugoslavia in 1944. What little my mother's family had, they tried to feed the baby, but the unsanitary water proved too much for her weakened immune system to bear.

By that time, my grandfather had been pressed into service as a guard at a prison camp. The prisoners were not Jews; they were mostly Hungarian POWs, and that's where his knowledge of their language came in handy. One time, a prisoner asked, in German, if he could spare a cigarette; Opa, who like all soldiers was issued them whether he smoked or not (he didn't, as he had asthma), handed the whole pack over. The prisoner thanked him in German; he said "don't mention it" in Hungarian. That was his quiet way of letting the prisoners know that he had no intention of harming them, ever; that though they were on opposite sides of the fence, so to speak, they were still in the same boat.

In a way, both were prisoners.

A very meek man, my grandfather never shouted, abused or pointed his gun at anyone. He had served in the Yugoslavian army before he married my grandmother (it was mandatory) and was just an ordinary soldier, albeit an unwilling and deeply unhappy one. It must have been a silent torment to be placed in charge of prisoners when he, like they, wanted nothing but to be free, reunited with his family, and living in a peaceful world where no tyrants or dictators held sway. He did what he could to try to hang on to some small vestige of ordinary humanity and not let fascism and war take his soul. Hence the gesture with the cigarettes. In those days, the least little thing was fraught with meanings it would not ordinarily carry.

His torment was deepened by the news that Gerda was sick and dying. The prison camp commandant told him he couldn't be spared, so he had to wait till she was dead; then he was allowed to go. And he was even generously "offered" a "choice": either let the Lutheran chaplain perform the burial service, or the camp director. Guess which he "chose".

Gerda was buried in a tiny casket covered with the swastika flag. We still have pictures of that. It seems insane to bury a baby not one year old that way, under a flag as if she were some kind of war hero, but such were the times. It was sheer madness, and flag-mania was one of the symptoms.

The war was going badly by then; everything was bristling with flags, as though that would conceal the truth. Boys barely old enough to know how to handle a gun were being sent to the front. An uncle-by-marriage told us once that his older brother was one of those, or would have been, had his parents not cunningly torn up the attic floorboards, hidden him in the crawl-space, and, when the soldiers came for him, told them he'd already left with an earlier troop. The brother was all of 14 years old when he cheated certain death. Crazy times!

At war's end, my grandfather didn't know where to report for demobilization. There was no office anymore; everything was a shambles. So he turned himself over, by mistake, to the British, who took him off to POW camp in Scotland. The food was poor and the work was hard, but other than that, he wasn't mistreated. Loneliness, isolation and captivity, not to mention memories of things he would sooner have forgotten, all ate at him. He was painfully thin when he finally returned home. He spent three years there and came back with the preternaturally sad face that he had until the day he died. Before then, he had looked young; after that, he was an old man at the ripe age of 37.

He rarely spoke of the war, and what he did say wasn't very revealing; only that he had been a soldier. He took almost everything that was weighing on him to the grave at 78, after a long battle with cancer. I was 19 when he died. I never did get to ask him all the questions I'm dying to ask him now.

So no, nothing Herr Grass has to say would surprise me. I believe him when he says he had no idea at the time what it all was really about. My grandfather didn't, either. And he told as much to the Simon Wiesenthal people when they came around to question him. The fact that they recognized him as not being a war criminal means a lot to me. Back then, the Wiesenthalers were looking for the real butchers, not the lowly soldiers; it was important to make the distinction between the great white sharks and the small fry.

My grandfather was definitely small fry. So, I'm sure, was Herr Grass, whom history will absolve; after all, he has already come out on the side of the angels with his other works, which have taken Nazism to task in no uncertain terms. One day, to honor my Opa, I hope to write a novel that does the same.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Hard Hat Hugo!

Hard Hat Hugo!

Looks like everything is a go for Venezuela, which is about to certify that it has the largest oil reserves in the world when the Orinoco heavy-crude region is factored in.

And that's not all: It also has at least 45% more natural gas than previously estimated.

No wonder Chavecito's gracing the refineries so much with his presence of late. That's a lot of additional benefits accruing to the people!

August 10, 2006

Sheikhs on a Plane!

And shakes on the ground! Oh NOES!!!

President George W Bush has said a plot to bomb US-bound flights from the UK is a "stark reminder" that the US is still at war with Islamic extremists.

Mr Bush said it showed "Islamic fascists... will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom".

He said the US was more secure now than before the attacks of 11 September 2001, but was not "completely safe".

However Mr Bush's Democratic critics said the plot showed his policies had increased the threats faced by the US.

US officials said the foiled plot involved detonating liquid explosives on board multiple commercial aircraft.

The US government has for the first time raised the state of terror alert to red - its highest level - for flights from Britain.

It has also increased the general level of security for all domestic and international flights.

Extra sky marshals are being deployed on flights between the US and UK, and passengers have been banned from carrying any liquids and gels on to planes.

Unnamed US officials said the airlines targeted were United, American and Continental, and involved flights to New York, Washington and California.

Boogaboogabooga! You will vote Republican in November!

Well, uh...actually...you might not wanna do that:

Senior Democrats - who have been criticising Mr Bush over the Iraq war - said the plot showed the terrorism threat had grown under during his presidency.

"It is clear that our misguided policies are making America more hated in the world and making the war on terrorism harder to win," Senator Edward Kennedy said.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said the Iraq war had "diverted our focus and more than $300bn in resources from the war on terrorism and has created a rallying cry for international terrorists".

Heavens to Betsy Ross. If they keep standing up on their hind legs like that, the Dems might just pull off a November Surprise. One sure to strike terror into Repug hearts.

Meanwhile, Lenin's Embalmed Corpse wants to remind us of just how lucky we are that his boss is at the helm down in Crawford:

Michael Chertoff, US Director of Homeland Security, said the scheme was "suggestive of an al-Qaeda plot".

"It was sophisticated, it had a lot of members and it was international in scope," he said.

Well, that tells us a lot. My butt-cheeks are clenching already.

So what WAS in this sophisticated plot, really?

Terrorists planned to use MP3 players and energy drinks to blow up as many as 10 jetliners bound for the United States, authorities said Thursday.

A senior congressional source said it's believed the plotters planned to mix a "British version of Gatorade" with a gel-like substance to make an explosive that they would possibly trigger with an MP3 player or cell phone.

Wow, this one's worthy of MacGyver.

Either that, or it's one helluva one-dood dance party.

Stupidity? You're soakin' in it:

Napalmolive!

Softens hands while you blow up airplanes!

August 8, 2006

Why so insecure, Alvaro?

Could it be that your "re-election" was not exactly...how shall I put this delicately...clean?

Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe has been sworn into office for a second term as tens of thousands of police patrolled the capital, Bogota.

Before presidents and officials from more than 20 countries, he pledged to seek peace with left-wing rebels and improve the country's economy.

The ceremony took place amid tight security with tanks on the streets and military helicopters overhead.

Officials feared a repeat of his 2002 inauguration, which came under attack.

A repeat, you say? You mean this unseemliness has happened before?

Gee, I wonder why. You don't suppose that drug war that's not going so well has anything to do with this, do you?

It keeps getting uglier

Another piece of context for the Mahmudiyah rape-murder atrocity falls into place...

A US military hearing has examined testimony of how three soldiers took it in turns to try to rape an Iraqi girl aged 14 in Mahmudiya in March.

The girl and three family members were allegedly killed by four US soldiers.

Graphic details of the attack at the family's home came in a sworn statement by one of the accused, James P Barker.

[...]

Investigator Benjamin Bierce interviewed Mr Barker, 23, on 30 June and took down his statement, he told the hearing at a US military base in Baghdad.

On the day of the attack the soldiers had been drinking Iraqi whisky mixed with an energy drink and practising golf strokes at a checkpoint south of Baghdad, Mr Barker's statement said.

One of the soldiers, Steven Green, said he "wanted to go to a house and kill some Iraqis," it alleged.

The four eventually went to a house about 200 metres (yards) away and put the parents and their five-year old daughter in the bedroom, but kept the older girl in the living room.

According to Mr Barker's statement, he and Mr Cortez took it in turns to rape or attempt to rape her.

Mr Barker heard shots from the bedroom, and Steven Green emerged with an AK-47 in his hand saying "They're all dead. I just killed them."

According to the testimony, Mr Green then also raped the girl and shot her dead.

Her body was doused in kerosene and set alight.

The first day of the hearing on Sunday saw an Iraqi army medic describe how he found the bodies of the four Iraqis.

He told prosecutors he was ill for weeks after witnessing the crime scene.

I can't honestly say I blame him. I'm feeling sick just from reading this.

Some people can't handle the truth

But by damn, don't they just do their best to punish him who tells it?

Israel is withdrawing its ambassador to Venezuela as a row grows between the two countries over the war in Lebanon.

At the weekend President Hugo Chavez recalled his envoy to Israel and described the Jewish state's campaign in Lebanon as a "new genocide".

On Monday Israel said it would be flying its ambassador back for "consultations".

"Consultations" is diplomatese for "we're hauling you home so we can send you back with a riot act to read to that uppity SOB who doesn't know his place". Last time that happened to Venezuela, it was Donna Hrinak, then US ambassador, who got recalled by the new BushCo State Dept. after Chavecito dared to point out that the bombing of Afghanistan was state terrorism, only to be sent back with marching orders that Chavecito refused to take. The result? The Great Failed Coup of '02, a.k.a. the Carmonazo, in which BushCo tried unsuccessfully to replace the uppity injun-niggruh with a whiter, more pro-business old fart who wouldn't dream of standing in the way of BushCo, or its cronies (of which he himself is one, and a very rich one at that.)

And now history is repeating itself once more. Now, as then, Chavecito's critics are accusing him of terrorist sympathies for nothing more than the simple act of criticizing the indefensible. But rather than actually deal with what was said, they'd rather play guilt-by-association with a little help from good ol'-fashioned false information:

Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel was concerned that Mr Chavez had allied itself with "the most extreme elements in the region".

"We have a Venezuelan president who embraces the Iranian leader who just a couple of days ago called for Israel to be wiped off the map," said Mr Regev.

Now, this is just bullshit. Ask Juan Cole if you don't believe me: Ahmadinejad, whatever else one may think of him, did not say that. He may not be fit to wipe Mohammed Khatami's boots, but he said nothing about wiping Israel out, and to see that lie repeated--as the basis for a spanking of Hugo Chavez, who is innocent in any event--is simply inexcusable.

Frankly, Israel can keep its ambassador. If they want to be childish as well as fascistic, they frankly deserve all the criticism this is going to get them. The Muslim world is largely taking Chavez's side in all this, and it's not just because of all that oil under their sands. They have a long history of unaddressed grievances with Israel, and an even longer history of being taken less than seriously by the West. So when a western leader stands up and tells the truth, naturally they applaud him.

And it's not their fault, or his, if Israel and its apologists can't handle the truth.

Cue the Queen song...

You know the one I mean. The one with the chorus that goes "ba da dump, bump bump...Another One Bites the Dust!"

Because another one just did. And I hope still more will join him:

A leading US Republican lawmaker facing corruption allegations has said he will not run for re-election in November.

Ohio congressman Bob Ney said he would stand down from the seat he has held for 12 years because of his family.

But the Democrats, who put the focus on Mr Ney as part of their election effort to paint the Republicans as corrupt, said he had been forced out.

Prosecutors say Mr Ney took gifts and trips at the expense of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He denies it.

"Ultimately this decision came down to my family. I must think of them first, and I can no longer put them through this ordeal," Mr Ney said in a statement.

You know, I think he might even be telling the truth about that family thing. From what I've seen, he and Jack Abramoff are like brothers. The kind you find in a Mafia famiglia, of course.

So long Bob, don't let the door hit you where your mama split you. After all, it's gotta stay open long enough for Ken Blackwell to go flying out, too.

August 6, 2006

Don't let this slip under the radar...

...because the mainstream US media certainly will.

And no wonder.

August 5, 2006

We don't know nuffin' 'bout burpin' no babies...

Or, apparently, what breasts are for.

Readers of a US parenting magazine are crying foul over the publication's latest cover depicting a woman breastfeeding, with some calling the photo offensive and disgusting.

"I was SHOCKED to see a giant breast on the cover of your magazine," one woman from Kansas wrote in reaction to the picture in Babytalk, a free magazine that caters to young mothers. "I was offended and it made my husband very uncomfortable when I left the magazine on the coffee table."

Her reaction was part of some 5,000 letters the magazine has received in response to a poll to gage reader sentiment about Babytalk's August cover photo, which shows a baby nursing.

Several readers said they were "embarrassed" or "offended" by the Babytalk photo and one woman from Nevada said she "immediately turned the magazine face down" when she saw the photo.

"Gross, I am sick of seeing a baby attached to a boob," the mother of a four-month-old said.

Another reader said she was "horrified" when she received the magazine and hoped that her husband hadn't laid eyes on it.

"I had to rip off the cover since I didn't want it laying around the house," she said.

Yeah, heaven forfend that Hubby-Dear should see that and be so shocked, he'd forget to masturbate. Or worse, that he'd see it and not be able to stop!

Honestly. How did these puritanical women ever manage to get pregnant, never mind giving birth?

No wonder the mag felt compelled to publish a big piece on the difficulties of getting new moms to breastfeed.

How to stop World War III

Simple: Teach your cops how to make an arrest.

Mel's Trunk

Any questions?

Yo wingnuts, I got your Saturday smile right here...

Mmmmmm...Fascist Fries!

Chow down, fellas.

(Originator unknown.)

August 4, 2006

Well, this was predictable...

If it doesn't say "MADE IN USA" on the bottom, it must be an illegal WMD!

The US state department has imposed sanctions on arms firms from Russia, North Korea, India and Cuba for allegedly supplying equipment to Iran.

It said they had broken US laws banning the sale to Tehran of equipment capable of helping the development of weapons of mass destruction.

The sanctions stop US firms working with affected companies - which include Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi.

Russia's foreign ministry condemned the decision as "clearly illegitimate".

Moscow last year signed a deal worth $700m (£380m) to supply surface-to-air missiles to Iran.

Sukhoi has denied having any contracts with Tehran and company chairman Alexander Klementev told Russian radio station Moscow Echo that it had delivered nothing to Iran for at least six years.

The US sanctions were ordered under the 2000 Iran Non-proliferation Act.

A state department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the sanctions were imposed after the US obtained "credible information" that the companies had transferred equipment or materials to Iran since 1 January 1999.

"The sanctions apply to the specific entities and their successors, sub-units or subsidiaries and not to their respective countries or governments," the official told Reuters news agency.

Russia's foreign ministry responded by saying that the sanctions were "a clearly illegitimate attempt to make foreign companies work by internal American rules".

In May, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov confirmed that the deal to supply up to 30 Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile systems to Iran still stands.

Along with Sukhoi, Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport has been put under the US sanctions.

The two Indian companies are Balaji Amines Ltd and Prachi Poly Products Ltd, both chemical manufacturers.

The North Korean companies are Korean Mining and Industrial Development Corporation and Korea Pugang Trading Corporation, and the Cuban company is the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

Okay, all you right-wing parrots, all together now:

"AXIS OF EVIL! AXIS OF EVIL! GRAAAWWWK! POLLY WANNA OIL WAR!"

And if it IS made in the USA, why, it must be good. Unless, of course, it gets sold to Hugo Chavez!

Boy bands suck in any language

Don't believe me? I have proof.

First of all, a very lame German trio singing (???) "Where are you, my sunshine?" With a lisp that makes me cringe.

Then, the hilarious rebuttal.

Now, the lyrics of the original. Here's my loose translation:

CHORUS:

Where are you, my sunshine?

I'm looking for you, I miss you

I respect no one but you

Just so's you know, I love you

---

Baby you're the one that I've always dreamed of

Your lips taste like ice cream on a hot Sunday

Listen up, gotta tell you that you're my world

If you're not around, then I don't wanna be here

It was love at first sight

Your respect for me is totally irreplaceable

We walked hand in hand

On the big seashore.

Girl, you're the one that I want and need

Beside you I feel like a nobody

And if you think that this means nothing,

Then you're wrong, because GIRL I LOVE YOU!

(CHORUS)

I miss your breath that caresses me

And seduces my heart

I don't care what happens next

I'll bring you heaven with stardust icing.

From the ends of the rainbow

I'll bring you happiness from the angels

I can't be without you anymore

We have to get together again.

(CHORUS, x4)

Official Barf Bag of the United States

After that, what is there left to say?

Well...

Never thought you'd have such a hit

Zero brains and full of shit

Listen up, I'll tell you how it is

You're all dinks to me, and your heads are empty

It was a shock at first sight

Your ego's so huge, so "irreplaceable"

You and halfwittedness go hand in hand

Think I'll drown myself down by the sand.

Ah, you talk nothin' but shit, I swear

In your skulls there's nothing there

The world doesn't revolve around you tools

A high-priced video won't help you.

CHORUS:

Yes it's me, your "sunshine"

Do you see me, buttface?

I don't respect you in the least

Just so's you know, I shit on you!

(repeat)

---

I'm hiding from you

And you won't see me

You won't find me

Doesn't matter what you do

You deserve to get whacked in the mouth

Your asses should get kicked

To the end of the rainbow

Please stop singing, I can't stand it

I don't need you and your band-o-shit

CHORUS (repeat)

Listen up, I'm your "sunshine"

Don't look for me, forget me please

I don't respect you in the least

I'm so free, ah

I shit on you!

All three of you at the same time!

Yep, I'd say THAT answers the question.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Navy Day in Venezuela

Chavecito celebrates Navy Day

Left to right: Vice president Jose Vicente Rangel; the state governor of Falcon, Jesus Montilla; president Hugo Chavez; newly appointed defence minister Gen. Raul Baduel.

And if you think Chavecito's amazing, you should read up on Gen. Baduel. His nickname is "El Tao" and he's quite the character himself. Competent, complex and anything but orthodox!

August 3, 2006

Support the troops--heed this sign!

Impeach the President, seen at Bagram

Peaches are in season right now. The time is ripe.

And Neil Young is dead-on.

BTW, here is why I love Chavecito. Who else has the cojones to speak this much truth to power?

August 2, 2006

Bye-bye, freedom fries!

Hello again, FRENCH fries.

And bwahahahahaha!

French fries are back on the menu in the US House of Representatives, three years after the name was ditched in favour of "freedom fries."

House Republicans renamed fries and French toast in 2003 to protest at France's opposition to the war on Iraq.

The patriotic name change hit the headlines at the time but the change back is getting much less coverage.

A House official would only say that fries are no longer being offered under the "freedom" nomenclature.

The Washington Times newspaper contacted aides of the two congressmen behind the move to "freedom fries " to see if they could shed light on the change back.

"We don't have a comment for your story," a spokeswoman for Republican representative Bob Ney told the newspaper.

At the time, Mr Ney, who together with Walter Jones pushed for "freedom fries", said the action was "a small but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally, France".

The move followed the lead of a North Carolina restaurant whose owner said he got the idea from similar protest action against Germany during World War I, when sauerkraut was renamed liberty cabbage and frankfurters became hot dogs.

The switch to "freedom fries" was seen as reflecting the anti-French sentiment among some lawmakers who felt President Jacques Chirac betrayed the US by opposing its policy on Iraq.

The Senate cafeterias never changed their menus.

A spokeswoman for the French embassy asked about current French-US ties told the Washington Times that the two countries were working closely on the Middle East.

"Our relations are much more important than potatoes," she said.

"French fries are back on the menu in the Capitol, back on the presidential dinner menu and our relations are back on track."

Now why would that be, I wonder?

This might offer some clues. So might this. And maybe, just maybe, this might also prove enlightening.

In any case, one more episode of blind US stupidity is now passé.

Adieu, et non revoir!

A sweet comeback for Venezuelan cocoa

All's I can say about this is, YUM.

Much of the funding to kickstart this new wave of organic farming came from the Venezuelan government, which has injected some $10m on research and training, as well as from the European Union via a local non-governmental organisation called Tierra Viva.

The world's chocolate gourmets are looking to Venezuelan beans.

Word has reached European and North American chocolate makers that this Latin American country is the hottest place on the organic chocolate map.

Several Italian, French and American chocolate manufacturers are buying organic beans from Venezuela.

Like with exclusive claret wines or single malt whiskies, what the experts value the most is the "single bean origin" label to denote aroma and purity, and Venezuela can offer just that.

Andrea Trinci, who owns a chocolate factory and shop in Tuscany, recently visited Venezuela.

"Venezuelan cocoa is very fine, elegant and persistent in its aroma," he says.

"I would like to see more and more organic cocoa being exported, but only at a just price."

The local cocoa producers are now making forays into the production of their own chocolate bars.

Five kilometres down the road from Ocumare lies the seaside village of Cata, where a handful of cooperatives have started making their own organic chocolate.

The sweet smell of melting chocolate greets visitors as they enter one of the cooperative shops.

Saturmina Diaz is one of six local women involved with the project, part-funded by the government and local charities.

"We offer a wide range of products such as chocolate punch, wine and pudding," says Mrs Diaz.

"Lots of foreign tourists come here to ask us whether we're exporting our merchandise, but so far we haven't had the financial means to do this. But that's the next logical step for us."

The cocoa producing zones of Venezuela, dotted along the Caribbean Coast and Lake Maracaibo, have gone through something of a revival.

Only a few years ago plantations and farms lay abandoned, following a series of poor harvests and droughts.

However, the roots of cocoa industry's decline can be traced back a long way.

William Harcourt-Cooze is a British cocoa farmer who bought land in Venezuela back in the 1990s.

"Prior to the discovery of petroleum here and the subsequent oil boom in the thirties and forties, cocoa was Venezuela's number one export," he says.

"But the government of President Chavez is aware that cocoa could once again be one of the country's main exports."

Driving around some of these old cocoa communities, with their colonial-style churches and village squares, there seems to be a new sense of pride and purpose in people's faces.

As one elderly farmer puts it, with a smile on his face:

"The world is talking about us again. I've waited a whole lifetime for that to happen. Sometimes I felt like throwing in the towel, but now I'm glad I didn't."

I'm glad, too. As should any chocolate conoisseur be. I've been sampling chocolate from Cuba and Ecuador, both of which are delectable. Organic, fair-trade Venezuelan chocolate would be a dream come true for me!

August 1, 2006

Mixed nuts, with a few bolts thrown in for good measure

My best friend's been on a roll lately. He's sent me several hilarious URLs. Let's see if I can blog them all:

First, the hatemail the intelligent creator of the Flying Spaghetti Monster gets for his audacious assault on all things fundie. I'm especially fond of this foulmouth, who doesn't seem to realize how ironic it is to espouse creationism AND cuss out someone who doesn't:

I do believe you are a fucking retard and I hope you burn in hell. Fuck you and the flying spaghetti monster. Postmodernism is a self defeating concept. Read Josh McDowell's book for a good overview of what life is truly about you dumbass humanist. You obviously think life is just a big damn joke. Its all for humor and entertainment. I look forward to the day it fucks you right in the ass. Oh the age of the earth doesn't fucking matter! Technology, hell we'd be better of without it anyways. God is not a flying spaghetti monster because only a human could think up such a dumbass retarded idea like that. Intelligent Design is observable. It does not require faith, it requires the ability to understand what irreducible complexity is along with several other phenomena that has been discovered in Science. Evolution is a conjecture. Of course, an idiot of your brain size would probably believe we came from monkeys...and quite frankly, you are probably the best evidence that Evolutionists have that human beings came from a monkey. I'm still having problems teaching my dog 2+2=4. I hope to someday prove Darwinian philosophy and be able to have my dog recite Shakespeare to me. Then I will believe Evolution is true. Until then....its all a big damn joke. Charles Darwin went insane when he was 28 anyways (didn't know that did you?) Let me put it this way to you concerning your bologna flying spaghetti monster. If we are created in the image of what you believe God to be, we would look like spaghetti. Common sense is a valuable asset. Lets try this...I'm going to go very sloooooowly for you Bobby. Retarded people...like Bobby Henderson....will burn in hell unless you give your life to Jesus Christ. Life is not hard. Neither is it a joke. But I believe that anybody with a brain the size of a peanut should be exposed for the fraud that the person is. Quite frankly, I do not know why I'm wasting my time...because you are probably too stupid to read this e-mail anyways. At any rate, I have better things to do than point out your circular reasoning within your arguments. You are a disgrace to anything that humanity or your stupid existentialistic philosophy represents.

Does he secretly believe his Lord isn't watching; indeed, that said Lord doesn't exist (at least not in the Intelligent Design format he professes to believe in)? In which case, it looks as though his "intelligent" argument is shot to hell by his own oral poo-cannon. (Jesus doesn't like it when you swear, dood.)

BTW, the author of this oh-so-convincing treatise was dumb enough to sign his real name, and Bobby, as a result, is having a field day with both it and his threats to sue. You really need to read it all to get the full impact of the wingnuttery...

And while we're in the fundie-wingnut mode, this site is also an ironic hoot. Apparently the bearded prophet (hoping to turn a profit?) has Dubya pegged as the Messiah. The Chosen One. And in case you really need to see it hammered home, the Second Coming is a REPUBLICAN. Sez so right in (and on) the book!

Best of all, get a load of the biblical quote he chooses:

"We must learn to respect one another as well as love each other. We all inhabit the same planet, and we are our brother's keeper.." JOHN 12:34

Waitasecond...is that really John 12:34?

Why no, it's NOT:

The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?

THAT is John 12:34.

And if that's a description of Dubya...

Dubya the Stumblebum

...then I'm the Queen of Spain. It sounds more like a description of this guy:

Huggable Hugo Chavez

...whom Patwa wants dead.

Jesus doesn't like it when you kill, Repugs! (And he doesn't like it when you issue death threats and legal chill, either.)

And coming back down to Earth (with a thump), here are some guys. I don't know if they're Repugs or not, but they sure seem to have a thing for Hummers. (The first and last videos are musical.)

Jedem das Seine, as my German grandma used to say. To each his own. But as for me, I'd rather stay away from big ugly gas guzzlers. They're a Bummer.

And finally, from Japan, a fun little graphic reminder of how video killed the radio star. Consider this the palate-cleansing sorbet that gets all those other funky tastes out of your mouth.

Somewhere in Texas, a village could lose a few idiots

And guess which village it is...

Like many folks in President Bush's adopted hometown, 83-year-old Robert Westerfield isn't exactly rolling out the welcome mat for the town's newest resident: war protester Cindy Sheehan.

"I wish she'd stay away. Crawford's a Republican town, and she's a dumb Democrat," Westerfield, a lifelong Crawford resident, said Friday while sitting on a bench outside a gas station on Main Street.

Excuse me, but who's dumb here, again? Preznit Chucklenuts lied the country into a war that killed Cindy's son, and yet she's "dumb" for taking Chucklenuts to task? Um no, I don't think so.

As for it being a Republican town, that's not true either. Just because Chucklenuts occasionally lives there, doesn't mean everyone's obliged to join The Party out of respect for him. What respect has he earned, anyway, when you get right down to it?

And here's one new Crawfordian who is, I'm sure, no Republican:

Gerry Fonseca, a Vietnam veteran who attended the protests in August and April, returned to Crawford in June to help the group look for property.

Fonseca said he doubts that any Crawford landowner would have sold to Sheehan or other protesters, so he didn't reveal his connection. Fonseca, who lost his Slidell, La., home in Hurricane Katrina, told sellers about that part of his life and that he wanted to build.

He bought the $52,500 lot in mid-July, using insurance money that Sheehan received after her oldest son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004.

The lot is a tenth of a mile from a small "Welcome to Crawford" billboard featuring a picture of Bush, smiling with his hand in a thumbs-up sign, and his wife.

The land is comprised of pasture and tree groves. Trucks began dumping gravel for a driveway on Friday, and water lines will be installed next week. Fonseca said he is still trying to arrange for electricity to be hooked up.

Although the site is more than 7 miles from Bush's ranch, it will have more space for the group's large activities tent, camping area and parking.

"This is close enough. We're still protesting in the community that he chose to live in," Fonseca said.

And here's the sweetest bit of revenge the "dumb Democrat" could take on that "Republican town":

Sheehan said when the camp is no longer needed, she plans to donate the land to the city for a park to be named Spc. Casey Sheehan Memorial Peace Park. Sheehan said it would have a playground, because "Casey loved children and peace."

Wouldn't that be one in the eye for guys like this?

Bill Johnson, owner of the Yellow Rose of Texas gift shop, disagrees with Sheehan's views of Bush and the war in Iraq and said he hopes protesters are considerate of their new neighbors. Last summer, the group disrupted the peaceful country life of some rural residents near Bush's ranch, he said.

"I don't want her rights taken away. Her son fought and died for this country," Johnson said. "But on the other hand, she needs to be respectful for what our country stands for."

And what would that be, pray tell? War? Death? Genocide? Illegal domestic spying? The Reichstag Fire of 9-11?

Or maybe just "free speech zones"?